Lesson in Flexibility

Posted on Friday, Jun 17, 2016

Already two weeks into my internship?!!? Where has the time gone?

Coming to Berlin with practically zero German skills has made things interesting, to say the least. I love the new perspective it brings when my once most valuable asset of oral production is debased to nothing more than “please and thank you.” Problem solving and contextual analysis become more than fancy terms written in a textbook yet a way of survival. I must learn to be patient, be understanding, and mostly be flexible.

While I have lived in Europe before and have visited southern Germany, Berlin is a city of its own. Any combination of person or activity can be found in Berlin. The first obstacle is conquering public transportation. Since the city is quite large, one can expect anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to get somewhere. My daily commute is about 50 minutes, which I thought was way extreme until my co-workers told me that their commute was about the same length. I have already learned to plan ahead and navigate the labyrinth of public transport by changing from train to bus to subway. The best part about the process is the wonderful jewels I have found around the city while being “lost.” 

Liebe means "love" in German. I found this jewel in a courtyard while lost.

Housing was another challenge. While I prefer to plan most everything out in advance, the “Berliners” have their own way of finding and renting apartments. A simple online search will lead to an endless number of dead ends or highly priced accommodation. The Berlin way is to know someone who knows someone who has a contact. The social networks are sometimes hard to follow, but I ended up finding a place to stay through that avenue. In order to secure my key, I had to meet up with another friend who was willing to keep the key until I arrived. The one-person flat ended up being less than ideal, but the lesson of flexibility allowed me to be grateful to simply have a place to stay. Looking for another place is an option, but I am not sure if I want to pursue the complicated social network chains to do so.

My internship is the main contributor to the lessons flexibility. I work in an international office with more than 14 countries represented (and there are only about 25 employees). Languages switch on a whim, with conversations starting in German switching to English and terminating in either French or Russian. My role is to help the development of four different projects while reporting to two different supervisors. I am learning to be flexible with my time by being able to change between projects and fulfilling any pressing tasks that are assigned to me. Every day, I show up to work and have little to no idea what is scheduled for the day.  While this might annoy some people, I feel like it adds to the excitement of the job. I enjoy being able to perform a variety of tasks according to the need of the day while remaining flexible to emerging crises that need to be extinguished. 

Overall, I am enjoying the dynamics of an international city and working in an international work environment. While it does come with lessons of flexibility (that require some rough adjustments), the ability to converse and absorb the vast amount of experiences and cultures makes these lessons invaluable. The key to flexibility is optimism. The is a positive light that whatever is thrown my way, there is something good to learn from it and an experience to strengthen personal character.

Joshua Boatright
Centre international de formation europĂ©enne (CIFE)
Berlin, Germany